Lilliam (Lily) Ortiz-Cruz was referred to the Goodwill Industries Career Academy by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) in November of 2016, needing to clear a sanction in order to reinstate her benefits. Sanctions are applied if clients do not comply with the requirements of DTA, and clearing a sanction requires two weeks of uninterrupted community service to a referral agency or organization.
Lily is a single mother raising two small boys. When she arrived at Goodwill, she had no previous professional training and little confidence about her skills or abilities. Lily would come in each day frustrated and distracted by family life. Despite that, the staff of the Academy saw a great deal of potential when during her first two weeks, Lily helped teach a manufacturing class and assisted other clients in the computer lab.
“We got to know Lily. We saw a great personality and ability to grow professionally,” says Program Director, ClairAnn Muddiman. “So we petitioned for Lily to become our intern.” Lily began her internship in December and worked seven hours a day. “She attended supervisory meetings because she requested to hear and understand ‘professional speaking and vocabulary,’” Muddiman reports. “She was also interested in understanding how the dynamics of these meetings work.”
When plans were solidified to open a new Career Academy in Holyoke, Muddiman petitioned her supervisors to hire Lily to manage that site. On February 1, Lily became a full-time employee of Goodwill Industries of the Pioneer Valley, and is the “face” of the new Career Academy, located at 231 South Street.
Since Lily’s hire date, she has learned to dress and speak professionally, and works hard to assist clients. She works largely independently now, helping individuals hone their job skills, apply for employment, and stay in their jobs. Lily is teaching English as a Second Language, computer basics, interview practice, resume writing, and more.
“She has a real passion for helping people, she is relatable, and she makes people feel comfortable,” Muddiman says. “She also has expectations of clients just as she has expectations of herself.”
In a few short months, with the patience and encouragement of the staff of the Career Academy, Lily went from single mom struggling personally, financially, and emotionally with no immediate employment opportunity to making a living wage in a job she loves with the ability to grow in her career. Now Lily is focused on her own education, work, and future.